dinsdag 9 augustus 2011

Islam in Contention, between Abangan, Moderates and Salafi

Last weekend we had two visitors for dinner in Utrecht. Kobayashi Yasuko from Japan has arrived in the Netherlands for her yearly research in Dutch archives and libraries on Muslim in Indonesia in the period 1930-1960. She concentrates on the new magazines like Pedoman Masyarakat (and the new style of Islam, not so scripturalist, more for the new middle class people who want practical rules for a balanced life). She also looks, especially in the archives, for the influence of the Japanese pre-war relations, the effects of the Pacific War on Indonesian Islam as well as the turbulent history of Kartosuwirjo and other militant Muslims in the late 1940s and 1950s when modern Indonesia started to take shape.
Willem van der Molen is busy with a special manuscript of the Old Javanese Ramayana: the lontar text of the Ramayana, as written shortly after 1500. He is invited to come to Tokyo and so the two came together at a meal in Utrecht. Talkign about the daily affairs of recent past and how to manage living in Tokyo, Japan, but also the Netherlands.

Yasuko brought a special gift: the new book published by the Wahid Foundation. Islam in Contention is a more or less academic presentation of the basic ideas of Ilusi Negara Islam, that is written in a very simple, simplifying and somewhat polemic style against the wahabisasi, the growing influence of Wahhabi ideas in modern Indonesia.
This new Contention-book is the result of a conference in Kyoto, 2008 and is clearly academic in style, arguments, documentation and suggestions. It is quite striking that Japanese and Indonesian scholars here use the same style, vocabulary and purpose: to sum up, analyze and even denounce the recent developments in Indonesian Islam as a betrayal of the more moderate and open tradition of Islam. There is very little Muhammadiyah. Often Muhammadiyah is identified with Din Syamsuddin and even this leader is more or less identified with Hisbu Tahrir sympathies. The actual picture may be more complicated.
In former times (the Clifford Geertz era) Indonesia was divided in santri and abangan (we leave the Priyangan aside, because it is now generally accepted that they are not relevant). Geertz introduced also the terminology santri kolot vs. santri moderen. As to difference between NU and Muhammadiyah this never was relevant: NU never was simply traditional, backward, but was more lenient towards differences within the Muslim community.

This is nicely illustrated by the article that Yasuko wrote in the book. It is about fatwas about women, issued by NU leadership between 1926-2004. Not all fatwa decision by the NU committee could be gathered: for six years the original documents are missing (I wrote in the margin: truly messy NU administration). NU has no personal fatwas, but collective ones, also truly NU because the individual should first of all be a member of a group. Yasuko emphasizes that the Bahtsul Masa'il is an all male body where 'women's desires are almost ignored. I found one of the strangest opinions that theoretically a pregnancy may go on for four years (300). The Bahtsul Masa'il is changing in its judgments. Remarks about segregation of sexes outside home have disappeared from their decisions after 1971 (303). "NU was six years late (compared to MUI) in issuing legal opinions concerning concrete methods of contraception" (304), more or less in line with the Roman Catholics. Polygamy is still a taboo among NU ulama, and here the CLD-KHI, a quite radical counter proposal in the field is Islamic law is quite refreshing.
The book as a whole has many detailed studies about the loval introduction of shari'a (Perda Syari'ah, about PDI, Hizbut Tahrir, PKS (considered as opportunistic and realistic. A wonderful opportunity to bring updated information to people who are not in close touch to common daily debates in Indonesia. Highly recommended. Thank you, Yasuko, for bringing it to Utrecht!

Remains the question about the disappearance of the abangan. Do we have new abangan people in Indonesia? People not so interested in Islam or in any formal religion at all? In the 1960s the Catholics, especially Jesuit Jan Bakker, hoped that abangan would become more or less a formal religion in the aliran kepercayaan/kebathinan. But they disappeared together with the abangan. Are the NGOs, more interested in social science and politics the new abangan? There is some more interest in eastern spiritulity, yoga, but it is not widespread.
And what about Christians in Indonesia: do they have abangan style among them? Traditional customs are tolerated as adat, but can be seen as some kind of Christian abangan in Flors, Timor, Minahasa, Papua.

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